Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More on Hayek


The left, the statists, currently frame the dialogue. The dialogue centers around “what should be done”, or “what should we do” or some other statement that implies goodness comes from government action. The only possible dialogue is “what government action should be taken to produce more goodness.”
Framed that way, the debate skips over entirely the matter of liberty, which is virtually always in opposition to government action. The fact that government’s purpose is the defense of liberty is nearly ignored. I can’t think of a single politician who got elected, or could get elected, for saying, “I if elected, will work tirelessly, day and night, to defend your individual liberty.”
It is because liberty has been eliminated from the debate, and “what govt action will be taken” is the only matter under discussion for all practical purposes, that we have discussion of grand central planning scemes, which are taken seriously by educated people. We all know on some level that government never really gets it right, and we don’t even expect it to. People hardly bat an eye when we talk about 10-40% fraud in medicare, but then say with great satisfaction that it is under-regulated, greedy capitalists who “ruined the economy.” The cognitive dissonance is immense.
A government doing nothing in addition to or excess of defending the individual rights of citizens is the starting point. No justification should ever have to be made for a government NOT doing any particular thing. The only justification that should ever have to be mounted is by the Keynesians and their ilk who say they think they know how to accomplish something good through the coercive monopoly of the state.
IOW – as much as I relish the continued and effortless pounding of the Keynesians, shooting fish in a barrel as it were, the fact that we even debate the relative merits of Keynesian economic philosphy is proof of the fact that the more significant debate was already lost, that being “what is the role of government and how may a government be strong enough to accomplish that role but limited such that it cannot do harm.”


...for Hayek the tenets of a sound ethics or morality aren’t directly relevant to political economy. As he said in the same interview for Reason magazine, “I don’t see why it should be necessary for political philosophy to have any view at all about what is right for man—unless the political system does something about it, it needn’t concern itself with what is right for man.” This may be objected to for a variety of reasons but not because it supports moral relativism. Indeed, something akin to this position is held by Professors Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen in their book Norms of Liberty (Penn State Press, 2005) when they argue that the principles of classical liberalism aren’t directly derivable from ethics but are, instead, meta-norms, meaning, norms that are required for the social realization of ethically significant conduct.
The relationship between objective personal morality and the principles of politics which are basic to a constitution such as Hayek’s constitution of liberty is a challenging aspect of political philosophy. It does not help to casually dismiss Hayek’s approach by caricaturing it as moral relativism.

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